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Reviving cotton output in South Africa a herculean task

Sep '12
In its latest August cotton production estimates, Cotton South Africa, a body which monitors cotton output, has estimated the crop at 62,339 bales (1 bale = 200 kg), a far cry down from 400,000 bales the country produced in the beginning of 1990’s  

The 2011-12 crop is 26 percent smaller than that of the previous season mainly due to lower cotton prices and the more favourable prices of other competing summer crops such as maize “We are expecting a final estimate of between 66,000-70,000 cotton bales”, Mr Bruwer – CEO of Cotton South Africa told fibre2fashion.

Explaining the reasons for decline in cotton output, he said, “The multi-fibre agreement and the dissolution of quotas in 2005, created a huge impact on the local textile industry. From a peak of 20 spinning mills in the 90’s, there are just four left now.

“The government too did not lend a helping hand. It will be a mountainous task for the government and the industry to bring back the glory of the 90’s. However, there are a good number of weaving, fabric processing and apparel production units.

“We used to have a protected environment before the 1990’s, which discouraged imports. This led to a sense of complacency among the textile mills, which never upgraded their technology.  When the government opened up the economy, these mills could not face competition and the multi-fibre agreement in 2005 put the final nail in the coffin.

“The other big reason is farmers shifting to better remunerative food crops like maize, due to the low prices that cotton has commanded in the last few years, except for a brief period of 5 months in 2011, when prices rose to historic highs”, he added by saying.

Speaking on the means to increase cotton output, he said, “It will take Herculean efforts from the government to prod farmers to plant more cotton. Secondly as is well known, cotton uses up a lot of natural resources like water, fertilizers, etc, while on the other hand crops like maize do not need as much resources”. 

Fibre2fashion News Desk - India

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